When you hear the term “eating disorders” what comes to mind?
Most people tend to think of anorexia and teen girls who want to look “perfect.” Unfortunately, this is not the case at all.
Anorexia can affect anyone and at any age, and is the leading cause of the death among mental illnesses, including depression. And yet, this disorder is largely overlooked and misunderstood.
For example, did you know that an eating disorder can also occur after someone loses weight due to diet or an illness?
“Extreme dieters” crave the high they receive from all the new attention, and this makes them want to keep dieting until it becomes an obsession. This can be especially true for someone who perhaps, always felt insecure about his or her body and is now getting a lot of positive reinforcement.
The fearful voice in their heads may ask, “Will people continue to like me or pay attention to me if I gain weight?”
Because the weight loss attracts a lot of attention that is mostly positive and causes the person to perpetuate the need to lose more weight.
Common eating disorder profiles
Typically, those who develop eating disorders have a “Type A” personality.
They tend to be perfectionists who feel the need to be in control at all times. For this reason it’s not surprising that the onset of eating disorders occurs in the early teens as they undergo changes that involve the body, self-image and new independence.
Another common time for an eating disorder to develop is during the late teens/early 20s when people transition into adulthood. Typically they may find themselves “uprooted” from college and now find themselves out in the “real world.”
The need for control
Emotionally difficult transition times tend to make some people feel that they are no longer “in control” of their own lives.
Their eating disorder becomes a way to regain some measure of control of one aspect of their life (like what they can and cannot eat).
However, the problem is that this isn’t what’s really happening. While he or she may feel in control by monitoring what and how they eat, in truth the eating disorder is actually “controlling” them.
Questions to ask
Here are some questions to ask yourself if you suspect someone you know has an eating disorder:
- How much focus does that person pay on continuing to lose weight once they are already at a healthy place?
- Is this person avoiding meals out with people?
- Does this person spend an excessive amount of time at the gym?
- Does this person get more irritable than usual? (This can be a sign that they are malnourished).
- Does this person talk a lot about their fear of gaining their weight back?
- If you suspect bulimia, do you notice a change in teeth color, hands and fingers — and is this person going to the restroom too frequently?
What can you do?
For starters, it is very hard to reason with someone once their eating disorder starts to take over.
This is mainly due to the malnourished state they are in, which leads to increased anxiety, irritability and depression. Just like someone who becomes grumpy if they skip lunch, someone with an eating disorder is oftentimes hard to talk with and is often easily agitated.
If you have a friend that you feel is heading in the wrong direction, suggest that they see a mental health professional or psychiatrist as soon as you suspect an issue. Make sure that their feelings are addressed early. The longer the symptoms continue to go unaddressed, they harder it will be to reverse.
The truth is that someone with an eating disorder is struggling internally.
Because of this it can be very difficult for someone suffering from an eating disorder to admit that they need help. So, don’t worry about being intrusive. By offering information and support they will understand that they aren’t really alone and that they have someone in their life who cares and is there.
They will understand that there are people around who can help them.
Which is exactly what they need.
If you need more information about eating disorders, feel free to contact me (Dr. Tara Brass) by clicking the link today.
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If you live in Westchester, NY you can find out more information about The FitMD program and nutrition counseling by clicking the link, or if you prefer give us a call at 914-721-0071 today.
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